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CLASSICAL  December 2007

CLASSICAL December 2007

Subject:

Rescuing CDs

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 31 Dec 2007 16:12:09 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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Some of you may know that for twenty-six years I lived in New Orleans.
The first CD I ever saw was there.  From an initial buy of 5 CDs (they
were far more expensive than LPs), my collection, which apparently bred
at night when I wasn't looking, grew to about 4,000 items.  New Orleans,
of course, was destroyed by the incompetence, arrogance, and criminal
mismanagement of the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Eighty percent of the
city was destroyed -- block on block, mile on mile, rich, middle, and
poor.  My house, resting on pilings more than three feet off the ground
had five to six feet of toxic sludge *inside the house* for over three
weeks.

When the US Army finally let us back into the city, my wife and I came
back to a rotten shell.  I didn't expect anything to be left, and I
was mostly right.  China, glassware, flatware, silver, and many cooking
utensils made it.  Furniture, electronics, and clothing did not.  One
interesting phenomenon was that items moved from room to room.  A
living-room chair at the front of the house wound up at the back of the
house.  We found our knife block in the music room.  We never did find
the knives.

Obviously, my CDs were put to stress beyond their design.  Above the
water line, the CDs on the highest three shelves, of course, made it.
I packed all those up.  However, I took all the CDs I could find and
packed those up as well.  One shelf had collapsed.  Never did find those
CDs.  The wooden floors had buckled, and I suspect that they floated out
with the kitchen knives.  I took what I could from New Orleans to Austin,
where they stayed for about six months in a shed in my sister's back
yard until we could move into our own house.  Another six months passed
before I could put in new shelves.

At any rate, I started to inspect and clean off the "dirties."  I have
several interesting findings, based on the fact that I have reached the
composer "William Schuman" in the collection.

Most of the CDs made it.  Perhaps 10% have not.  The types of damage
include pitting, flaking, and (surprising to me) fading.  One CD had
become a clear plastic disc, except for the label: not a speck of metal
anywhere.  It was as if the metal had been sprayed on.  I'm pretty
ignorant of the manufacturing process, but this does run counter to the
little I know.  In certain cases, the metal had been eaten away, as if
by acid.  I speculate that the combination of ink, acidic paper for the
liner notes, and of course the magic liquid that came through (not over)
the levees may have contributed to this damage.

Certain manufacturers did better than others.  RCA Living Stereo fared
among the worst, peculiarly susceptible to flaking.  Musical Heritage
Society CDs, particularly the older ones, and Mercury faded.  DGG, Decca,
Philips, and EMI pitted, as did Marco Polo.  Koch also didn't make out
well.  However, to this day, I have lost not a single Naxos CD.  Hyperion,
Sony, Chandos, and Erato also tended to come through.

I was in the process of transferring my LPs (some 2-3 thousand) to CD.
Again, I was mightily surprised that the brand-name labels of Maxell and
TDK did much worse than Office Depot's home brand.  I have lost only one
Office Depot CD to date and dozens of the others.

Nevertheless, it looks like the bulk of my collection has survived.  I
will not run out of stuff to listen to any time soon or even, most likely,
before I die.  I would still like to take the opportunity to thank those
fine souls who privately offered help and, in some cases, very generously
sent me CDs.  It's easy -- in some cases, even comfortable -- to indulge
one's cynicism during Christmas, and I'd be an ungrateful whelp to do
so, especially since Santa is bringing more stuff to tax those new
shelves.

Thanks again.

Steve Schwartz

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